What a term, statement,
symbol, gesture or
sign refers to or
This is a very important notion, and not easy to
explain well. Two good
explanations in book form are Ogden & Richard's "The meaning of
meaning" and Lyons' "Semantics".
One important ambiguity about the term "meaning" should be noticed
to start with, since it vitiated quite a lot of analytical philosophy. It is
this: By the meaning of a term of statement, such as "elephant", one
may refer to either some of the ideas or
concepts people may have about
elephants, such as mental pictures or criterions by which to recognize
elephants, or some real elephant(s). The same goes for statements, like "I saw
an elephant in the zoo".
A way of keeping these apart is to write "elephant" for the term,
'elephant' for the idea or concept, and elephant - without quotation marks of
any kind - for the thing one calls by the term "elephant" and may remember by
the idea 'elephant'.
Unless I say so explicitly, in general I will use the term "meaning" to
refer to ideas or
concepts one may
have, rather than the entities one's ideas or concepts
represent in some
reality, if only because often one does not
know whether there really is something as one means by the term, and because
one must be able to understand the meaning of a term or statement before one
can sensibly make up one's mind whether one believes it to represent anything
real (in the sense of "real" one uses).